Tag Archives: equalities

Layla Moran highlights period poverty in Parliament debate

On Wednesday this week, Layla Moran held a debate in Westminster Hall to highlight the issue of period poverty and the need to provide sanitary protection for those most vulnerable. It was an interesting debate, but there’s no good the minister making sympathetic noises and everybody agreeing with each other if the Government doesn’t do something about it. Layla pointed this out.

Here is her main speech but you can read all the interventions and the rest of the debate here. 

I am delighted to have secured this debate on an important topic that—let’s face it—remains taboo and is still a bit embarrassing for many people. It is precisely because no one wants to talk about it that I believe it is so critical that we do, so I will start by putting my money where my mouth is and telling the House one of my most embarrassing moments.

I was in the first week of a new school. I was 12. I was feeling very out of place and very lost. I saw a teacher beckoning me from the top of a stairwell. I walked towards her and said, “Yes, Miss? What did I do wrong?” I was convinced something was wrong. She said, “Don’t worry—everything’s fine, but I wanted to let you know that you have a stain of blood on your skirt.” Of course, it was not fine. I looked behind and on my light blue uniform there was indeed such a stain. My face went red, and then white. I remember going to the bathroom and crying, and when I stopped crying I called my mum. She came and we went home; I told the school that I wanted to go home to change. In fact, she had brought me another skirt, but I was just so mortified by how many people might have seen it and not said anything.

For me, that was a one-off and I was better prepared the next time, but for thousands of girls in this country, missing school because they cannot afford sanitary products is a regular occurrence. It is an outrage that in a country as wealthy as Britain we let that happen. Thanks to the double whammy of the stigma attached to both poverty and periods, we simply do not know the scale of the problem.

Food banks are now actively asking for donations of sanitary products. Teachers are dipping into their own pockets to keep supplies of sanitary products in their desks.

Many of us first realised that period poverty was such an issue for young women when it came to light that teachers in Leeds had got in touch with a charity called Freedom4Girls that provides sanitary products to women in Kenya and had asked whether it would be willing to give them a supply for girls in their school. They had noticed that girls were missing class at around the same time every month, like clockwork. Given the substitutes, including rolled-up toilet paper or old socks, that girls from low-income families are using, it is no surprise that they choose to stay home. Now, I admit that the rolled-up toilet tissue trick has served me well, but I can go and buy some products or go home. For these girls, it is a regular occurrence. It should not be.

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The building blocks of #metoo

Jared O’Mara is hardly the first MP to have been caught out expressing prejudiced views. It just goes to show that if you are known to have said something dodgy on the internet over a decade ago, it is likely to find its way into the hands of your political enemies.

For Liberal Democrats, though, it’s all a bit galling. O’Mara beat our Nick Clegg in a particularly cruel twist of fate in June’s General Election. His victory meant that Parliament was deprived of the most expert voice on Brexit. Where Nick fought for equality, O’Mara’s views as an adult have been far from civilised.

My first thought was to write a piece saying that he must stand down from the Women and Equalities Committee in Parliament. Thankfully pressure was brought to bear on him and he resigned this evening as our Paul Scriven had demanded. Sadly that committee still has Philip Davies on it. He, you might remember, thinks that he and other men are voiceless and being drowned out by these feminist types.

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What Brexit means for women

Recently, an event was held in London, to discuss Brexit, and its effect on the rights of women and what might change following its implementation. As a participant, I had arrived with the view that it would be difficult to change the law as it stood, but new laws might be affected.

For the last 43 years, most if not all of our Equalities legislation has come through the European Union. For women in particular, that has changed both their entitlements and rights as matters from equal pay to maternity leave have been secured by that route. It is astonishing to think that women, up until that legislation was passed, had more rights in Anglo Saxon England than in the 800 or so years that followed the Norman invasion.

What transpired at the meeting caused much anxiety among those present. For it is the case that, as most if not all of our Equalities law emanates from Brussels. It has been adopted into UK law, so can be cut back by use of new powers currently going through Parliament.

There are several risk areas, according to the Fawcett Society, which cover rights at work, women’s economic life, safety from attacks and racism. Those explicitly protective of women such as the Pregnant Workers Directive, or indirect protection such as that provided by The Part Time Worker Directive and the Agency Directive, which protects pension rights, written contracts giving details of working hours and pay and parental leave. It matters for those working part time, where the majority are women.

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Cadan ap Tomos on Visit my Mosque day: We must bridge divisions in our communities

Today is Visit My Mosque Day, a chance for people to build links between communities.

Welsh Equalities Spokesperson Cadan ap Tomos has been doing exactly that, visiting the Dal Ul-Isra mosque in Cardiff.

He made a short video afterwards:

He added:

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Burt and Swinson comment on gender pay gap report

The Resolution Foundation today published research into the gender pay gap which shows that it has fallen to just 5% for women in their 20s but that there is still a huge lifetime deficit for women. They said:

Looking at women’s early careers, the analysis finds that baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1965) experienced a pay gap of 16 per cent during their 20s. That gap fell to 9 per cent for women in generation X (born between 1966 and 1980) and then to 5 per cent for millennials (born between 1981 and 2000).

However, despite this progress in the early career phase, the gender pay gap continues to rise rapidly for women in their 30s and 40s. Among baby boomers the gender pay gap rose from 21 per cent at the age of 30 to 34 per cent by the age of 40, after which it started to fall. For generation X the pay gap increased from 10 per cent at age 30 to 25 per cent by the age of 40.

The gender pay gap for millennials rises steeply to 9 per cent when they hit 30, only very marginally lower than the gap for generation X-ers at the same age. This suggests that the old challenges associated with having children endure for young women today, says the Foundation.

Liberal Democrat Equalities spokesperson Lorely Burt said:

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Opinion: To be free from poverty, ignorance and conformity, our society must have robust support for disabled people

Today is Blogging Against Disablism Day 2015. It’s the tenth annual day for disabled and non-disabled people to blog about their experiences, observations and thoughts about disability discrimination (known as disablism or ableism). It aims to raise awareness of inequality, promote equality and celebrate the progress we’ve made.

An online acquaintance of mine said he was going to write for #BADD2015 in terms of the political parties’ manifestos. Good Lib Dem that I am, I looked forward to hearing some positive stuff about my party. I know there’s lots to talk about.

The Lib Dems have budgeted the £8 billion a year the NHS will need during the next parliament, which is bound to be relevant to the lives of people with disabilities and other long-term conditions, as many of us do seem to see doctors, nurses and specialists often enough to be on a first-name basis with many of them!

The Lib Dems’ unique dedication to improving mental health care is also relevant to many disabled people, both those whose disability is primarily or entirely a matter of mental illness, and those who experience poor mental health as a result of other disabilities. Mental illnesses are some of the most common, and most “invisible,” disabilities in the UK, and at the moment the mental health care many people receive (or fail to) not only doesn’t help them but can actually make their mental health worse.

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Daily Mail tells us a 20 year old story on Jo Swinson’s equalities report

The Daily Mail alights on a Government Equalities Report commissioned by our Jo Swinson and, of course, hones in on the one paragraph in 12 pages that mentions sex.

But just doing the dishes can really spice up a marriage.

That, at least, is the advice from a report backed by Liberal Democrat equalities minister Jo Swinson. It calls on men to do more to support gender equality campaigns – and isn’t coy when it comes to spelling out the potential perks of hoovering.

It claims that everyone in a family becomes ‘happier and healthier’ if men participate ‘fairly in the home’ by sharing childcare duties or household chores.

It goes on to say: ‘Equity in the home is associated with a range of benefits including improved sexual relationships.

‘Where women report an equitable relationship with their partner they are more likely to be having frequent sex.’

The thing is, the research cited in that report is 20 years old. It is, of course, stating the obvious. Let’s face it, if everyone shares the work, there’s bound to be more time for fun.

If the Daily Mail had devoted even half the space it gives over to stories that can be filed under the heading “Woman Goes Out Wearing Clothes” or to having a go at women for working outside the home, or being stay at home mothers, or being too fat, or being obsessed with diets, or being too needy in relationships, or scaring men by being too independent, to promoting this research, they could have driven a really positive cultural change.

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